Retraining 3 year old Bel Mal

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Member Since
Barked: Fri Jan 6, '12 4:04pm PST 
I adopted my 3 year old Bel Mal, Luke, from a military base shelter. He wasn't tagged or chipped when I got him, so his past is a total mystery. He knew how to sit and shake paws already, but every other command seemed utterly foreign to him. Working with him is a real challenge. He's a very affectionate dog towards people, but dog-aggressive. Because of this, "heel" has become the main focus of most of our walks (I live in a family neighborhood with lots of other dog owners). He's finally grasped the concept, but will still pull if the collar isn't situated directly behind his ears. Even when he does heel correctly when moving past other dogs, he continues to bark, growl, and slaver. If I don't see the other dog first and he is at the end of his lead, I literally have to physically haul him back to me because his entire focus is on them and he will not respond to "come". I've had some people suggest a choke collar or chain, but I don't want him to hurt himself when he lunges or when I have to pull him back. He's a big dog (about 70 lbs) and his go-to move is to hurl himself at the other dog(s) with his full weight.

I've looked into classes to take him to, but there are none available in my area. Other dog owners in my neighborhood are afraid to attempt socializing their dogs with him because of his size and behavior. Any suggestions on how to make walks less like walking through a hot zone in Afghanistan, and more like a pleasant walk through the neighborhood? Help!